Kamsky Evens Score with Fantastic Win! Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
February 21, 2009
An unhappy Topalov and pleased Kamsky at the round four press conference.
 Photo Cathy Rogers.

Gata Kamsky’s bid to become a world title challenger for the second time received a new lease of life after he ground down the local favorite Veselin Topalov in the snow-covered Bulgarian capital of Sofia on Saturday.

Before a capacity crowd of 150 who braved sub-zero temperatures to come to the National Palace of Culture (NDK) theatre and 150 more watching on screens around the NDK complex, the two GMs completed the longest game of the match, one only decided after 73 hard-fought moves. As after game 2, the Bulgarian crowd greeted Kamsky’s victory with generous applause and the resulting press conference for once saw Kamsky almost garrulous and Topalov answering questions as briefly as possible.

Trailing by a point, Kamsky entered the fourth game appearing nervous; arriving five minutes early and pacing behind the stage while he waited for Topalov to arrive. As the game was about to begin Kamsky found that his chair was not to his liking but he soon waved away an arbiter who made flailing attempts to adjust the chair.

In contrast, Kamsky’s manager, GM Emil Sutovsky seemed calm, a calm apparently justified since little by little the American gained space and sacrificed a pawn for enormous pressure. Sutovsky began to come frequently into the press room, seeking assurance from the assorted journalists and their computers that his man was holding onto an advantage. In the meantime, Sutovsky explained why Kamsky’s game two loss – which had caused some commentators to write off Kamsky - was not a bad omen at all:  [In game 2] the most practical decision was to go for something safe but one of the qualities of really super-players is self-confidence. So, the very idea of trying to refute Topalov’s opening concept over the board, although a bit naïve, deserves a certain respect.”

Sutovsky also commented that the organization "do not even try to pretend they are neutral" – only two hours into the first game did Sutovsky finally convince the organizers to allow the installation of a mobile phone jammer, as agreed months earlier.

Sutovky's comment became more understandable when one entered the press room before the game to see a "How Topalov was Robbed in Elista" documentary about the 2006 world title match between Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik running on the video screen.

Wandering downstairs to the bookstall one could also find the newly published books “Topalov’s 250 Winning Games” and “Kamsky’s 150 Winning Games”. The latter book compensates for its lack of content by including all Kamsky’s games against Bulgarian players, wins and losses.

But back to the game. Kamsky, handling his clock far better than in his first disastrous outing with the White pieces, safely reached the first time control and coolly grabbed a pawn. “My position was very bad after move 40,” admitted Topalov, “but maybe I could have resisted better.”

On move 43, the first critical moment of the game arose. Kamsky, who looked cool as a cucumber, calmly calculated while Topalov often had his head in his hands.

Meanwhile Sutovsky, rooted to a computer in the press room, was a bundle of nerves. “I don’t think he’ll see [the forced win 43.Bxf8!! Rxd2 44.Qc1!!],” Sutovsky would mutter to himself. “It’s not a human line.”

Emil Sutovsky in an interview on the round 4 win. Photo Cathy Rogers.
A few minutes later Sutovsky would reverse himself, deciding that Gata had seen the winning line and was just checking it. “Maybe there is some variation that is easy for the computer but hard for him to refute,” Sutovsky speculated, quite correctly as events transpired.

After half an hour’s thought Kamsky eschewed the brilliant win – he had in fact found a variation that he could not refute – and went for a safe extra pawn. The position seemed to be difficult to convert but Kamsky made it look easy – although not until he had further frayed his manager’s nerves by declining to venture a series of computer suggested forced wins which Sutovsky was begging him to play.

Topalov hung on until the third time control – after move 60 the players got an extra 15 minutes and then were given 30 seconds for each completed move – but the result was no longer in doubt.

At the post-game press conference, Kamsky looked too tired to be happy and dragged his manager away as soon as the formalities were over. The American is well and truly back in the match and with the White pieces to come in Monday’s fifth game, the pressure – for the first time in the match – is back on Topalov.


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6

No sidelines for Topalov today.
 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.Ng5!?

 The first real surprise. Rather than enter any fashionable variations, Kamsky heads for a system that has not been thought to be dangerous for many years.
12...Re7 13.d5 Nb8
The modern preference although Karpov's choice of 13...Na5 is supposed to be rock solid.
14.Nf1 Nbd7 15.Ng3 g6 16.Bc2
The first new move and an eminently logical one. In the original 1979 game in this line Romanishin had used 16.Be3 to beat Beliavsky.
 16...h6 17.Nf3 Nb6 18.h4!
Position after 18.h4

The start of a very annoying plan. Kamsky knows that Black wants to play ...c6 and later ...d5 so he makes sure that he will have a weakness to attack on g6 if Black manages to execute his plan.
18...Qd7 19.Nh2 Bg7 20.h5 Rf8 21.Nhf1 c6 22.dxc6 Qxc6 23.Ne3 Kh7

Quietly accepting his fate. The advance 23...d5 allows 24.hxg6 fxg6 25.exd5 Nbxd5 26.Nxd5 Nxd5 27.Be4 when White controls the board.
 24.Qf3 Bc8 25.Rd1 Be6 26.b3!
 Without this long term pawn sacrifice, White would struggle to make progress but now Topalov must grab the pawn since allowing 27.Ba3 would lead to similar positions to the game without the material solace." It's a very logical move, said Kamsky. "My queenside pieces weren't playing but after 27.Bd2 I definitely had compensation for the pawn."
 26...Qxc3 27.Bd2 Qc7 28.Ba5 Qb8 29.Rd2! Nc8
29...Rd7 30.Rad1 Rc8 keeps some activity but Black is still suffering after 31.Bb4 Rc6 32.Nd5!
Position after 30.Rad1

Topalov's first bid for counterplay and a serious mistake. The threat to trap White's bishop is easily parried and Black's queenside pawns soon become chronically weak. "I had some idea but I missed one variation - then I sort of blundered a pawn."
31.Qe2! Kh8 32.Bd3 Na7 33.Rc1! Nb5 34.Bxb5 axb5 35.Bxb4 Rd7 36.Rc6 Rfd8 37.Qd1 Bf8 38.Qc2! Kh7 39.Ba5 Re8 40.hxg6+ fxg6

 The time control has been safely reached but Kamsky continued playing quickly - he had already calculated that the d pawn can safely be captured.
41.Bc7 Qb7 42.Bxd6! Bf7

 13 minutes went on this move - part bluff, part despair.
Position after 42...Bf7

Played after half an hour's cogitation. "I thought that 43.Bxf8!! Rxd2 44.Qc1!! was winning," said Kamsky "and it is winning. I just didn't see that after 44...Rxf8 45.Rxf6 Qd7 I have 46.Ngf1! Rd6 47.Nf5! , winning."
 43...Bxb4 44.Rxd7 Qxd7
44...Nxd7 45.Rc7 is even worse.
 45.Rxf6 Re6 46.Nd5 Bf8 47.Rf3! Kg7 48.Rc3 Ra6 49.Rc7 Qd6 50.Qe2!

The dual threat of 51.Qxb5 and 51.Qg4 ensures that Black cannot maintain his position.
 50...Kg8 51.Qxb5 Rxa2 52.Qb7 Ra1+ 53.Kh2 Bxd5

Here a despondent Cheparinov, Topalov's trusty second, wandered into the NDK building, tired of watching the game online and hoping to provide some support for his charge after his inevitable defeat. In the event, he had to wait much longer than expected for Topalov to stop fighting.
Position after 53...Bxd5

Far more precise than taking back with the queen, although that must inevitably win in the long run. "I would have a chance to find 43.Bxf8!! and 44.Qc1!! but I would never take back with the e-pawn myself," admitted Sutovsky. "The guy sees everything."
54...Qf6 55.Qc8 Qh4+
55...Qxf2 loses the rook on a1 after two checks.
 56.Qh3 Qxh3+ 57.Kxh3 Rd1 58.Ne4 Ba3 59.Ra7 Bb4 60.Rb7 Ba3 61.f3 Kf8 62.Rb5 h5 63.Kg3 Rc1 64.Rb8+

64.d6 or first; 64.b4 would have been much faster but Kamsky sees a clear path to victory and is content to follow it. "Of course the ending is winning for White," said Kamsky.
 64...Kf7 65.Rb7+ Kf8 66.Kf2 Rc2+ 67.Kf1 Rc1+ 68.Ke2 Rc2+ 69.Kd3 Rxg2 70.Ra7 Be7 71.d6 Bd8 72.Nc5

72.Ra8 Ke8 73.Nf6+ Kf7 74.Rxd8! Kxf6 75.Re8! was again a faster route to victory.
 72...Ke8 73.Rh7
"I played very badly," was Topalov's blunt assessment of the game. 1–0


Root on the American World Championship Challenge  live on the Internet Chess Club,the official website, or chessdom, where there will be live GM coverage. Sunday, 2/22/09 is a rest day and play will resume on Monday, 2/23/09 at 8 AM EST. In round 5, Kamsky will play again with the white pieces.   They refrain from switching colors this time so that each player has a chance to get White after a rest day.  Check out the full schedule here.  (In fact, Kamsky played Game 5 with the black pieces. The rules published on the website did not match the players' understanding.)